The number of cases of colon cancer, a disease typically found among older adults, is rapidly increasing among younger adults.
Scientists are "baffled and perplexed" by the rising trend of colon cancer among younger adults who were born in the 90s. Moreover, the people who are younger than 55 are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Among Younger Adults
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is most often found in men and women who are 50 years old and above. Age is a major risk factor for the disease, so, everyone over the age of 50 is recommended to regularly be screened for colon cancer.
However, a study published in 2017 found that adults who were born in 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer compared to those who were born in 1950.
Then, last year, the American Cancer Society recommended that colorectal cancer screening should begin at the age of 45 instead of 50.
Scientists have no idea why colon cancer is increasing among adults ages 30 to 40. However, Mark Pochapin, a professor of medicine and the director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at New York University Langone Health, believes that diet might have something to do with the alarming trend.
"Gastroenterologists and researchers hypothesize that the rise among this age group could be linked to dietary changes, like consuming more sugar and less fiber, and routine use of antibiotics," he stated. "Both factors can alter the community of microbes that inhabit the intestines and aid general health and metabolism."
He also suggested that the decline of physical activity could also be connected to the rise of colon cancer among younger adults.
Edith Mitchell, a program leader of gastrointestinal oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, added that younger adults have a higher risk of being diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer because doctors do not immediately suspect cancer.
"When a 25-year old complains of blood in their stool or of a sudden change in their bowel habits, their primary care physician rarely thinks it could be cancer and doesn't offer screening tests that can diagnose the problem, like a colonoscopy," Dr. Mitchell said.
Colon Cancer Screening
Dr. Pochapin recommends that people who have a family history of colon cancer should be especially vigilant and begin screening before any symptoms appear.
African-Americans, a group that has a 20 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer, should also begin screening early. The CDC adds that patients who have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis should start regular screening before they turn 50.